Cross Writing: A Peculiar Way to Save Paper And Postage

Back in the 1800s, when both paper and postage were expensive (the cost of posting a letter depended on how many sheets of paper you used), it was common among folks to write on a sheet of paper the regular way, and once they had run out of room, turn the paper sideways and keep writing. The practice was called cross-writing or cross-hatching.

A crossed letter might seem illegible at first, but once you become familiar with it you adjust and learn to ignore the script across. Still, a crossed letter was not enjoyable to read, even in its heyday. In his essay Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-Writing, noted author Lewis Carroll wrote: “When you get to the end of a notesheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper—a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but whatever you do, don’t cross! Remember the old proverb Cross-writing makes cross reading.”

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Cross Writing

A cross letter written by Mother Anastasie Brown (1826-1918). Photo: Wikimedia


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